Sermon for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 13:1-13
Dear ones enduring to the end: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake,” says Jesus to His disciples. That’s not exactly the most comforting teaching in Scripture. You will be hated by all.
But what else do you expect from this corrupt and sinful world along with its prince, the father of lies? As disciples of Jesus, why would you be surprised that the devil hates you since he hates Jesus? As followers of Jesus, why would you be surprised that the world hates you since it hates Jesus?
Jesus says in John 15, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (vv. 18-20)
But we don’t want to be persecuted. We don’t want to be hated. The great temptation for Christians is to try and blend in with the world so that we will not be hated. The great temptation for Christians is that we would give in on some little things; that we would allow some worldliness into our lives and even into the church because that would help us blend in with the world. Let’s just get along so that we don’t stand out.
Let’s not stand up for God’s definition of marriage or for the unborn. Let’s not speak out against women pastors. Even most other churches have caved on these things.
The devil is crafty. He works in subtle ways. He doesn’t expect to turn a Christian away from God overnight. He does it slowly, incrementally, step by step. He lures and entices into seemingly indifferent things. No Christian wakes up one morning and says to himself, “Today I make a decision that hockey or dance or my job is more important than God.” But after years of playing or working on Sunday morning instead of coming to hear God’s Word and receive His forgiveness and strengthening of faith, faith withers and becomes cold. If the devil has his way, that faith will die. In fact, if we have our way, our faith will die.
But it’s not just in our personal lives that the devil seeks to wreak havoc. Even more so he wants to do it in the church. Again, remember he’s crafty. He’s subtle. He knows he won’t turn the church away from God overnight. He does it slowly, incrementally, step by step. He lures and entices into seemingly indifferent things. He slowly introduces practices that are seemingly pious and sincere but are void of Christ. Surely not every hymn we sing must be about Christ and Him crucified. Surely we can shift some focus away from Jesus so that my children or grandchildren can showcase their talents, at least on Christmas Eve. Surely we can cut out receiving the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith in the Lord’s Supper at least every other Sunday.
The devil is crafty. He works in subtle ways. If you don’t believe me, look around this sanctuary. Where are our younger generations? Have they not been tricked into focusing on things other than Christ? Have they not been lured and enticed away from Christ and His gifts?
And now where are we? In a country seemingly on the cusp of persecution. A time when Jesus’ disciples are hated by the world. A time when Christians are being killed around the world because of their faith. And still we are tempted to give in to the world so that we might avoid being hated. We are still tempted to act like the world or act like churches who have forsaken God’s Word.
We cannot avoid the hatred of the world. We cannot even avoid the hatred of our own families. Jesus says, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” (v. 12) It’s not just the world that we don’t know who will hate Christians. So will the world we know very well – even those near and dear to our hearts.
No matter what we do, we cannot avoid the hatred of the world if we are Christians. But so what? It doesn’t matter what the world thinks! So what if the world thinks we are backwards? So what if the other churches think we live in the age of dinosaurs because we uphold marriage? So what if some in our families think we’re stuck-up killjoys because we cling faithfully to the Word of God?
“The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (v. 13) The one who doesn’t wander from the truth of God’s Word will be saved. The one who isn’t lured and enticed into the world will be saved. The one who endures in the faith will be saved.
But don’t think that it is up to you to keep yourself in the faith. If it were, there would be no hope for any of us. Rather, the Holy Spirit keeps you in the faith. He who brought you to faith in your Baptism keeps you in the faith through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit keeps you in the faith through the body and blood of Jesus which nourish you throughout your days of pilgrimage on this earth. Through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit keeps you from being lured and enticed by the world. The Word of God keeps you from wandering from the truth because God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).
The truth of God’s Word says that Jesus is preparing a place for us right now in eternity and He will come again and take us to be with Him (John 14:3). This world of sin isn’t our home. This world of hatred and persecution isn’t our home. We’re pilgrims passing through here to our eternal home.
Jesus is not preparing a place for us because we’re good people; not because we’re better than the world; not because we’re better than anyone, because we’re not. We’re just as full of sin and hatred as the rest of the world.
Jesus is preparing a place for us because He took the punishment of our sins on Himself. Jesus faced the hatred of the world in all its ugliness and nastiness. Jesus faced our hatred as we crucified Him with our sins. Jesus wasn’t crucified for anything He had done; He died for our sins. The guilt of our sins killed Him.
But Jesus doesn’t begrudge us. He doesn’t hate us back. He willingly gave His life for us out of pure love. He willingly took our place out of compassion for us, His fallen creation. He gladly brought us salvation, setting us free from sin and sorrow. He slayed bitter death for us so that we will live with Him forever. He defeated the devil so that he cannot threaten us. Now we are free from condemnation. We are free from punishment. We are saved from hell.
The world will hate those who follow Jesus. Christians will likely face much more opposition and hatred in the years to come even in our own country. Church steeples will fall, but the one who endures to the end will be saved. Those who belong to Christ will be saved because He will sustain us through His Word and Sacraments. We have nothing to fear because we belong to Christ and He has promised us eternal life when we die.
“I know my own, my own know me.
You, not the world, my face shall see.
My peace I leave with you. Amen.” (LSB 645 st.5)
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.